hotrod architecture


My architectural interest lay somewhere along the lines of 'hotrodding' existing structures with contemporary interventions. I know this is nothing new and has been explored before... anyone know of some firms/practices/people whose work I should check out?

May 17, 05 12:47 pm

check out wes jones

May 17, 05 1:04 pm

I'm familiar with Jones's BOSS architecture, but is there anyone else that has really explored this?

May 17, 05 1:10 pm

Carlos Scarpa is one of the best ever.

May 17, 05 1:27 pm
Joe Bloggs

Paul Byard wrote a book on this titled "The Architecture of Additions: Design and Regulation". It includes the Reichstag, Louvre, The Castelvecchio, etc.

SOM's proposal for Penn Station is one I don't think he covers but that does fit the "hotrod" idiom.

May 17, 05 1:38 pm

Scarpa's work is great, which includes the castelvecchio project that joe bloggs mentioned

Zumthor's Kolumba project in Koeln

and Rudy Ricciotti

May 17, 05 2:10 pm

hotrodding at it's finest

May 17, 05 2:29 pm

Nice subject pixelwhore.
I love it when you can see and feel different time-layers.
Italy is probably the hotrod architecture capital, holland also has a lot of horoddin' going on.

Recent Dutch hotrods that spring to mind:
Lloyd hotel, Amsterdam - MVRDV
Paard van Troje, the Hague - OMA
Now&wow, Rotterdam - club inside a former silo

May 17, 05 2:55 pm

how about wes's old collabrators: holt, hinshaw, and pfau..

also check out the Pamphlet architecture series book: Mosquitos and Building Machines. Contains early work of Neil Denari, Wes, and Ted Kreuger

May 17, 05 3:33 pm

sure to be unpopular on this site, but eric owen moss' 'hotrodding' of the warehouses at culver city is pretty smart. spending all of your money on one choice corner or face of an existing warehouse is a good way to get bang.

May 17, 05 3:36 pm

coop h.

holt hinshaw pfau of latter day maybe, but what have they done lately?

May 17, 05 3:42 pm

look at doug garofalo, with garofolo architects, he became rather notable with his "hotrodding" of old chicago ranch houses, like the markow residence...

May 17, 05 3:51 pm

and the garafolo farm house on the cover of metropolis...

for something different see Michael Rakowitz and his good stuff:

May 17, 05 4:04 pm
May 17, 05 4:04 pm

exactly, now that is one fine machine ^^^

May 17, 05 4:12 pm

don't forget lebbeus woods.

good subject.

"juxtaposition is the means whereby the frontier of design can be understood by those beyond the horizon."

May 17, 05 4:12 pm


May 17, 05 5:57 pm

maybe hejduk's work inside cooper union would be an interesting interior example

May 17, 05 6:34 pm

I never thought of appositional architecture as a reenactment of 'hotrodding' before, but, if the shoe fits, the foot is forgotten.

May 17, 05 6:51 pm

too funny, i've actually been thinking about this for years...but i am looking at the unibody design of late 60's early 70's mopars, more specifically the superbirds and charger daytonas...

but Craig kOnyk did something regarding automotive themes...

May 17, 05 9:08 pm

can you define "hot rod" a bit more, so the suggestions will be to the point?

May 17, 05 10:59 pm

Koolhaas on Mies @ IIT. Hotrod on so many levels.

May 17, 05 11:17 pm

i had to post it.

May 17, 05 11:37 pm
liberty bell

prosaic functional object, hotrodded:

May 18, 05 12:33 am

sweet one bell. i'm having a friend tag my lawnmower in the same fashion. flames a blazing.

May 18, 05 1:05 am

my view of 'hotrodding' is removing an existing mundane architectural feature and replacing it with something more architecturally savvy. Its basically a juxtaposition of components. I used the term 'hotrodding' because when you're fixing up a car, you (typically) replace the stock components with a high performance, elaborate aftermarket part. on some levels its no longer a 1973 Chevy Nova SS anymore, but at the same time it still is. Its all a type of assembly fetish on my part I guess.

As far as the examples so far (Jones, Woods, Coop H, etc.) these are all groups whose work I'm familiar with. I was hoping to find someone that is currently actively pursuing this approach just so I could check out what they're doing....

May 18, 05 6:18 am

" show host Ellen DeGeneres surprises parents-to-be Britney Spears and Kevin Federline with a carriage customized especially for them with neon lights, spinners and a Sony DVD player, during a taping of "The Ellen DeGeneres Show" in Burbank, Calif., on Monday, May 16, 2005."

May 18, 05 10:35 am
liberty bell

Britney spawns. Yeeeeecccchhh.

But back to the topic at hand. My husband built hotrods for two years (and that Weber grill I posted is ours) and Pixelwhore I'd say your definition is right on. It's about personalizing something, but within a set of compnents recognized by the subculture that identifies themselves as "hotrodders". For example, very few hotrodders would consider glueing puffballs or happy meal toys all over your car as "hotrodding", that would be "customizing". So within the subculture of architecture, what is the recognized componentry set? I find that a fascinating question and I'm very curious about this pursuit of yours.

Also, the hotrod elements are both about improving performance AND showing off your hardware to members of your subculture - both functional and aesthetic value. This parallels architecture so beautifully.

My husband also autopainted a 2x4 - can't find the image right now - a lucscious metallic lime green. Hotrodders often custom paint the interior engine components, parts of the car that you will never see, juts to imbue the entire machine with the same aesthetic level. Imagine a building built with gorgeous, finished structural steel, every weld perfectly ground, then covered by equally gorgeous cladding...

I don't know anyone doing hotrod architectural work right now - Starck certainly has the glamour aspect down, but I'd say his work is more trailer queen than performance.

May 18, 05 10:57 am

hmmmm... I may be on to something... guess I gotta buy a house and give this whole thing a go. I'm willing to bet that the only piece of real estate a 24 year old could get is a POS, so I'll have my work cut out for me. anyone want to make a donation?

May 18, 05 11:05 am

do you see this as the same thing as "souped up" architecture, or "architecture on steroids"?

just trying to understand the full position [of the question]... many responses I see here seem to not be addressing your intent, if I understand it correctly [and I may not...]

May 18, 05 5:09 pm

Many Italian modernists of the 50's-70's are hotrodders, I think, because they need to work with important historical buildings that needed to be reprogrammed.

May 18, 05 5:21 pm

I don't see this 'hot rodding' as reprogramming a building, but rather working within the existing parameters. most of the examples given consist of adding onto rather than complimenting the existing. I'm sure it has plenty of implications for completely new construction, but I honestly haven't thought it through that far yet at the level I've thought about working with existing structures/conditions. I see this as more than just a purely aesthetic exercise, and i'm not sure if thats coming out. I live in fairly rural area (Western Massachusetts) and see this 'hot rodding' as a way to slip into and undermine the existing architectural fabric. Once I get my hands on some reading material on the topic and have the free time I'll attempt to develop it more. My apologies if anyone thought this was something thats actually been developed, as that is far from the case. I just wanted to have a better grasp on whats already been done prior to my investigations.

May 18, 05 6:11 pm
liberty bell

After a beer-fueled discussion on this topic last night, I have this to add:

Historically hot-rodding is ONLY about performance. My husband claims if he threw a V-10 engine in our minivan it would qualify, in hardcore circles, as a hotrod, because we could then take it out to the Salt Flats and race it. (Aside: the minivan is borrowed from an uncle as we await completion of our '65 Falcon Ranchero, currently not running - I'm embarassed to drive a minivan but I have to admit as far as functional vehicles go it's a real performer. But I can't wait to pull up to a jobsite in the Ranchero!)

Recently, the aesthetic issues have become part of the hotrod culture, but again, hardcore car people would tell you that the aesthetic stuff is "customizing", currently running under the moniker of "hotrodding" - look at all those car shows on TLC these days that are touting "hotroddng" when they make over a car body.

Also, hotrodding requires that the starting point be a STOCK item, something anyone can go out and acquire. The whole hotrodding realm sprang from taking the stock Big 3 American car and, as you said, Pixel, replacing a stock component with a higher-performance version.

There is also a personal investment implicit - guys were doing this to their own cars, or the cars of their buddies. It seems to me the best architectural analogue would be a suburban tract home - something that is personally owned and that looks very much like or identical to all the homes around it, so its cutomization is more apparent. Although that does go against the argument that hotrodding is all about performance not appearance.

It seems architectural hotrodding would engage with a lot of the engineering aspects of a building - performance of HVAC/environmental issues, maybe higher-quality materials thoughout, especially perhaps the hidden ones, like the structural steel. Maybe it's a house built out of high-tensile strength steel or something instead of wood studs.

Of course the visual aspect is more fun.

May 20, 05 11:40 am

liberty bell:

Would your husband know of resources on the car-side of hot rodding? I'm sure there is something out there, but I have no clue on where to start. I figure after an investigation into the car side of things I'd be able to pull apart what has architectural implications easier. there is no hot-rod scene out here where I am (at least that I know of, but I'm sure that kind of stuff isn't always advertised to the masses), so I'm out of that for a source of information.

And thanks for adding to this discussion, I believe you have a grasp on what I'm getting at with this investigation more than others do.

May 20, 05 11:48 am

I hate to put a damper on this (because I really like this thread), but aren't aspects of Extreme Makeover Home Edition very much akin to hotrodding. I don't watch the show now, but I did watch it a bit when it first aired, and back then they didn't just tear down the whole house to start over. Instead, they really beefed up some of the performance aspects of the house, especially kitchens and bathrooms. And, perhaps more to the point, whenever there is a disabled member of the household, all kinds of performance aspects of the house are upgraded via special design.

Now that I think of it, isn't it fair to say that hotrodding may indeed be one of the first manifestions of the "extreme makeover" concept?

May 20, 05 12:17 pm

i love this discussion as my father has been doing this for the last 25 years - designing and building engines for people who want to go really really fast. hot rodding began with a bunch of teenagers getting together on a friday or saturday night and showing off in front of their friends. in a way it was all about show.. definately performance but there was a cocky/showy aspect to it any movie that glorifies hot rodding and you'll always see the ubiquitous car with a blower sticking out of the hood and flames along the side. from the racing and the showing off, a social structure developed, a processional element.. cruising the boulevard, if you will.. long parades of cars where everyone wanted to see and be seen.. a huge social event... eventually they would end up at the usual spot for everyone to 'run what you brung' and the racing would begin...

there is also the phenomenon of the 'sleeper'. the scenario - guy driving an old beat up 67 nova. i mean the thing is rustying, paint peeling off everywhere a thin crack line runs across the windshield etc etc.. the thing looks like a hunk of junk.. he pulls up next to a guy in a brand new corvette, porsche, mustange (insert any over the counter fast car here).. he looks over at the guy next to him, smiles and revs his engine a little.. well the guy in the vette chuckles, smiles and gives him a little more engine and thinking to himself, 'this guy wants a piece of this, he's crazy'.. well the light turns green and the guy in the vette gets his doors blown off by the nova cause the nova's got a big block chevy, bored over and could smoke anything within five counties...

aesthetics have always been a part of hot rodding.. it just depends on who has the money to do it.. because it costs so much to customize a car - externally - most money gets put under the hood.. go to any drag car competition, watch the street legal comps and you'll see a wide range of cars..

May 20, 05 12:19 pm
liberty bell

Rita, I raised that exact show last night in our talk - in concept, in definition, that show was exactly hotrodding a house. But it was crap design, for the most part, so I, too, hated to bring it up. But you are right.

Gotta run to a meeting, but Pixelwhore I'll see if I can turn you on to some resources - ether can probably too...ether, in Detroit next year DO NOT miss the Detroit auto show, it's amazing.

I love this discussion too.

May 20, 05 12:39 pm

the performance aspect MUST be the key to hotrodding, otherwise this discussion might be more appropriately titled 'pimp my house'.

though there was that episode of 'pimp my ride' where they installed a whole dj station in the back of a 5door. that would be a performance enhancement...wouldn't it?

now i'll have to think about this with every addition or renovation that i do. "hotrodding, customizing, or pimp-in': which is it?"

May 20, 05 1:10 pm

Along with performance, the notion of 'extreme', taking something to an extreme, seems to be necessary to the concept of hotrodding as well.

ether's example of the 'sleeper' is especially provocative architecturally in that two extremes are present in the 'design'--the super engine inside and the "rustying, paint peeling off everywhere a thin crack line runs across the windshield etc etc." facade.

Suddenly I want to design architecture along the lines of looking like a dilapidated shack on the outside yet like the Hall of Mirrors a la Versailles on the inside.

Wait a minute. Ludwig II as hotrod sleeper architecture client! Who knew?

May 20, 05 1:42 pm

I think the real question is what the definition of performance for architecture is: is it the mechanical system, the program, the aesthetic, how green it is, etc? I think this is where the real challenge is but at the same time would yield the most conclusive results in defining 'hot rodding'...

May 20, 05 1:48 pm


A few years ago i did a project for the restoration of an 1830's farmhouse. Besides the construction of the twin bathroom (complete bathroom for both people, on opposite sides of the same room) and the commercial kitchen, we stripped out all of the plaster and packed the ceilings with fiber optic lighting (to light the incredible art collection unobtrusively), installed a geothermal conditioning system, a generator, a LAN serving each room, and we installed a all-house sound system complete with speakers with a diaphragm on the face that could be skim-coated over = invisible. Separate controls next to the light switch in each room.

In the end the house looked nearly un-messed-with, but i felt like the walls should be humming.

May 20, 05 2:07 pm

In the case of Schachen, the building was to preform as a retreat, a "mountain refuge." The "Swiss chalet" motif certainly upholds the notion of a place of retreat in the Bavarian Alps. Yet inside there is an overly opulent "Turkish Hall" which offers retreat in a very extreme way, you could say both physically and metaphysically, a retreat virtually into dreamland, like a psychedelic trip even. (And who knows what "drugs" might have been done there.)

Architecture performs on all kinds of levels, from the structural (the most necessary and literal performance), to the mechanical (and here plumbing and electricity seem the most pervasive), to the programmatic, to even the symbolic. Doors have to preform, windows have to perform, toilets have to preform, roofs have to preform, etc., etc..

Perhaps it's as simple as taking any performance aspect of architecture to an extreme and you then have a design methodology analagous to hot rodding.

May 20, 05 2:12 pm

This is a very intruiging subject...something I have been anamoured with since i came across Wes Jones and his ideas of BOSS. I have to question though, not to bring another damper on it, the financial appeal of this type of work. I am not a hot-rodder nor know my way around a car beyond changing the oil, but it seems that many times those hot rod enthusiests put much more money into their hotrod then the cost of a new car. This could be assumed as well if one were to apply this to least from a complete overhaul standpoint. I can see this being appealing to those who want a small addition, but if it came down to modifying or enhancing entire buildings or systems the cost would be, I assume, astronomical compared to the cost of a new, ground up house. Dont get me wrong. i love the idea and am really looking forward to the continuation of this topic. I am just wondering if it is going to be appealing to "clients" or wil it be limited to, as ether said, personal property or friends property.
I mean..what if a client approaches you because they need a new grill becasue you have an excpetional knowledge of grills. If they currently have a beat up Weber(aka typical suburban home) and you propose to either give them the hotrod grill shown above or a nice stainless steel one from home depot for half the cost....i think the would think they would just laugh at the hotrod option. We, however think their crazy becasue we would takethe hotrod in a heartbeat.

May 20, 05 2:13 pm
liberty bell

Pixelwhore, you asked the question that interests me most (in the infancy stage of this idea): What is the component set that our architecture subculture would consider "hotrodded" if you were to change them? Of course, the answer may well be as complex as architecture is. It's the appearance of the building, but also the structure. And also the mechanical system, and also the programmatic/cultural response.

So can we work backwards from what a "hardcore architecture enthusiast" would call hotrodding? I'm thinking of the Tool album Amnesiac, which apparently did all kinds of musical "tricks" like chord changes based on harmonic progression patterns or something like that - I know nothing about music so that may be a nonsense phrase. Help me out here if anyone knows what I'm talking about! The point is, they did stuff that only hardcore music enthusiasts, knowledgeable about the craft and rules of music, would appreciate or even recognize. Stealth communication with other experts.

Steven, your ultra-wired farmhouse sounds like it comes close to this idea, except that the media systems - and for that matter, the HVAC systems or any other invisible component - aren't really what we would call "architecture", right? Good architecture encompasses a good use of those systems, but the systems themselves don't make what we elite architecture enthusiasts would say make for "hot" design. The visual element seems to be more important.

I'm just thinking aloud here.

May 20, 05 3:26 pm
liberty bell

Also, Rita, a Philly rumor I've heard is that all over South Philly are sleeper projects:

What appears to be three unexceptional rowhouses are actually one enormous house behind three existing facades, the interior all fitted out in Very Expensive Chi-Chi High Mobster Glam Wife Style hee hee!

May 20, 05 3:29 pm

lb, your point is why i introduced the farmhouse. if hvac and media aren't architecture, then what is high performance architecture? this is the question that pixelwhore addressed last, separating customization from hotrodding with performance as the distinction. and this is why this discussion is interesting...

so many aspects of architecture can be portioned off and called part of something else. rita addressed lots of aspects of architecture that perform, but could these all be stripped away as not-architecture?

using some of pixelwhore and rita's examples:

if we think sustainability > pv panels are systems, so not architecture. so passive solar designs that are more integral - are they architecture or systems.

if we think program > does a tweaked-out hybrid program make the resulting building hot rod architecture? not if it's just a shed that happens to include a beauty salon and a's just an unusual program.

if we change out the eljer for an automatic toyo>...

maybe we should consult barris kustom about this question. what would they do with a house?

the international hot rod association site doesn't help, but this definition from the street rod association gives some interesting guidance: What is a Street Rod?

May 20, 05 4:01 pm

there is the ihra (international hot rod association) and the nhra (national hot rod association)

the nhra is like winston cup level and the ihra is like the busch grand national of stock car racing (though it is gaining popularity, presence and money)

May 20, 05 4:06 pm
liberty bell

Steven, first off, absolutely no slight intended on the farmhouse project, and I'm sorry if it came off that way. Should have added a disclaimer to that effect when I used your project in my comment.

It is a hard question. The NSRA "What is a Hot Rod?" is a perfect analogy. I'm hung up on the fact that they have two set-in-stone criteria: The car must be pre-1949, and the car must come to the show under its own power - no trailer queens allowed! So would architecture hotrods require an arbitrary date after which a building is too young to qualify? The National Historic Register has this requirement - I believe it's 50 years or older.

They also emphasize that the street rod maintains the "charm" of an older vehicle while being modernized. And that it provides a comfortable, safe, functional vehicle for enjoyment, not just racing. It has to be a daily driver. The "charm" question is interesting - does a hotrod building need to be obviously an older buidlding that has been modernized? And I would think a little pavilion or temporary structure wouldn't qualify, not being seriously "inhabitable" as a house is.

I think the list of options is a start to defining that component set of "high performance architecture". And for me it seems regular architecture has to encompass a thoughtful and intentional use of all those parts - program, structure, systems, materials, appearance - so hotrod architecture has to encompass them better and in a more extreme utilization. No easy answers! I need to think a little further on this...

May 20, 05 4:19 pm

Picking up on LB's "stealth communication with other experts," I'm recalling a detail from Kahn's Esherick House. I think in the hall right as you enter the house there is a light switch panal unlike anything I've ever seen before. Not only are there like eight toggle switches in a row, but the panel is set on the wall vertically, as opposed to the traditional horizontal mounting. Granted this is just a small detail, but, given that the building dates from 1959-61, such a light switch panel seems extreme (and I certainly thought that when I first saw it in 1977), but also elegantly simple in its execution.

While I'm "in" the Esherick House, the windows here also have an extremeness to them, and these windows are very much integral to the architecture.

And now I'm thinking of the enormous light hoods that "light" the communal spaces of Kahn's Erdman Hall dormitory at Bryn Mawr. Again there is this extremeness in terms of how light enters the space, and the resultant effect is very much part of what makes Kahn's architecture "great".

And now thinking further about "windows," my favorite panes of glass remain those at either end of the quondam Liberty Bell Pavilion (vintage 1976). While not a makeover, per se, the detailing of this building has an extremeness to it overall, even to the point where the roof/ceiling is split right down the middle so as to not disrupt the axis of Independence Hall. And even aesthetically, if you look at this building closely, it wouldn't be a stretch to say it has a 'hot rod' feel to it. And, as to performance, as much as most didn't like the building, representatives of the National Park Service will nonetheless admit that it served its purpose of allowing thousands and thousands of visitors to see, stand by, and touch the Liberty Bell very well.

Anyway, I never expected to be thinking about Kahn and Mitchell/Giurgola architecture in conjunction with "hot rodding", so again, "Who knew?"

May 20, 05 4:24 pm

no slight taken.

your last post - the 'charm' question esp. - reminds me of visiting the rooftop addition that coop himmelblau did in vienna in the late '80s. i visited it in '90 and thought it was great that you had to use an old buzzer to call up and you rode a 19thC. cage elevator to the top. not until you went in the door of the unit itself were you aware of what had been done. the dramatic shift was an impt part of the experience.

May 20, 05 4:24 pm

hmmm... I'm glad I started this thread, its started some great dialogue on archinect that seems to generally been lost with the wave of grad school and Per Corell topics...

May 20, 05 5:02 pm

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